Quantitative easing

By Eric Lonergan

Despite running a large budget deficit in each of the past three years, the net debt of the UK government has barely risen.

The distinction between gross and net debt is central to any consideration of a government’s solvency. Gross debt usually refers to the total stock of current non-contingent financial liabilities of government, principally bonds outstanding, and net debt subtracts liquid financial assets held by government departments, such as foreign exchange reserves or holdings of government bonds.

Net debt is the basis for any calculation of fiscal solvency, as long as the assets held by government are highly liquid. If departments within the government hold gilts, it makes sense to net them off the stock of debt, because the government is making interest and principal payments to itself. Read more

Roger E A Farmer, Distinguished Professor and Chair, UCLA Department of Economics

The US recovery has stalled, the UK has fallen back into recession and most of Europe is mired in a debt quagmire to which there appears to be no quick exit. It is against this background that Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, has come out aggressively in favor of additional Fed actions. Read more

In August of 2010, I argued on this forum that the Fed should expand its policy of Quantitative Easing. By now the US is well into a programme that, by the end of June 2011, will have added $600bn to the Fed’s balance sheet. There is widespread discussion of what to do next. Read more

Ben Bernanke, US Federal Reserve chairman, has announced that the Fed is about to go on a $600bn spending spree by buying $75bn of treasury bonds every month for eight months. Not all of the members of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee agree that a second round of quantitative easing is a good idea. Read more

Shankar Acharya

Suddenly this month the esoteric world of international finance is resonating to the clash of currencies. On September 27 Brazil’s finance minister stated that an “international currency war” has erupted. In its October 16 issue the London Economist put “Currency wars” on its cover, with evocative imagery of an aerial dogfight between paper planes of currency notes from different countries. Read more

There is a widespread perception that quantitative easing is synonymous with increasing the money supply. But it is more than that. Read more

Update: Read Prof Farmer’s response to readers’ comments

By Roger E. A Farmer

I argue in this piece that:

  • Quantitative easing should be expanded
  • Even if the Bank of England were to buy the entire UK national debt that this policy would not be inflationary
  • The global recovery is faltering and an expansionary policy is needed to encourage private investors to create jobs
  • Additional quantitative easing could save as much as £38.5bn a year in interest costs to the taxpayer

May 18, 2006 was an important day. It was the day when the Bank of England began to pay interest on reserves. In October 2008 the Fed followed suit. This monumental change in policy gave the Bank an important new tool in its arsenal. It allowed the Bank to influence the economy not just through expansion or contraction of the stock of money, but also through the composition of its balance sheet. Read more

By Brendan Brown

There is a magic monetary wand out there which could accelerate economies along the road to prosperity out of the widespread destruction wrought by the global credit bubble.

This wand is not the creation of another monetary time-bomb labelled “quantitative easing”; rather the source of magic is an emergency conversion of banknotes. Read more

By Roger E. A. Farmer

According to a widely-held consensus view, the world is slowly emerging from the Great Recession of 2008. Growth in China is projected to top 8 per cent in 2009. Australia raised the interest rate on the Australian dollar last week and the US and UK economies are showing signs that unemployment growth has slowed even though the unemployment rates in both countries are very high. Sometime soon, perhaps in the spring of 2010, perhaps earlier, the Fed, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England are likely to respond to the perceived global recovery by reducing the sizes of their balance sheets and raising interest rates on overnight loans. Read more

By Stephen Grenville

With the US official interest rate now in effect zero, there is much talk of monetary policy “running out of ammunition” and “pushing on a string”. Has monetary policy become impotent in the US and Japan? Does a similar fate await the rest of us? Read more